Six things from Tomorrow's World which actually happened

Image of Delorean with lego men
Whatever happened to those flying cars we were promised?
"Today, you can pop out on your lunch break and regain your vision without even batting an eyelid"
  • | by Abbie Laughton-Coles

“Where’s my flying car?”

If you were a fan of Tomorrow’s World you may very well be asking yourself the same question.

Along with many gadgets and technological advances used worldwide daily, the flying car was presented as a ‘coming soon’ commodity, not too far out of grasp.

Rocketing around town like a scene out of Futurama hasn’t become reality quite yet, but many of the other Tomorrow’s World predictions have intertwined themselves into our everyday lives

Here are a few you might recognise.

1. Mobile phones
Image of 80s cellphone

Photo: Mr Beck

Years ago, sometime just after the ice age we think, there existed a world where telephones only appeared in people’s corridors or in booths on the street. The nearest thing to a portable phone network was two plastic cups attached by a piece of string (the good old days).

Alas, in 1979 we were introduced to the prototype cordless phone on Tomorrow’s World. Granted it wasn’t quite the iPhone and it caused a hand spasm if held for too long, but it was revolutionary.

Over the last decade mobile communication has developed at an incredible rate, from the beloved ‘brick phones’ carried around in the 1990s to the super-sleek smartphones of today, permanently glued to the hands of the tech savvy. Where would we be without it? We wouldn’t be able to log on to Facebook to see what our friends had for dinner, or ask Siri what its favourite colour is. Yes, the mobile phone truly is one of the most influential advances of the modern age.

2. School computers

Image of BBC Micro

Photo: Lord Brio

School computers became mainstream in the 1980s when children spent their ‘IT lessons’ on the behemoth of a computer stuck in the corner of the room, manoeuvring a turtle around the screen by entering in co-ordinates.

The hypnotic sound of the dial-up modem whirring and clacking away promised the idea of a new universe to explore via something named the Internet.

However, Tomorrow’s World introduced us to the idea of using computers for education in 1969, when the plucky, forward-thinking boys of Forest Grammar School used theirs - called Nellie, presumably because its mass was similar to that of an elephant - to solve maths equations and even play music.

Of course, the students of today have a lot to thank the introduction of computers into schools for, and it can be summed up in one word - spellcheck (note: that depends on your computers spellcheck settings. It might be two words...).

3. Laser Eye Surgery

Image of man having painful eye surgery

Photo: Capt' Gorgeous

The thought of letting someone loose on your retinas with a massive laser isn’t one that most of us would relish, but did you know that the surgery was first practised in the 1960s?

Indeed, the decade that health and safety forgot is responsible for this modern-day surgical marvel. Today, you can pop out on your lunch break and regain your vision without even batting an eyelid.

Dubbed as ‘tomorrow’s eyes’ - yes, they probably should have gone with a less creepy strapline - it was thanks to the pioneering work in the ‘60s that you now have the option of throwing away your glasses.

4. Plastic gardens

Image of astro turf

Photo: Dominic's Pics

Appearing on Tomorrow’s World in 1968, a plastic garden was featured as the next big thing. Imagine city gardens and countryside alike full to bursting with toxic green turf, never-wilt flowers and rigid foliage. Sounds grim, right?

Luckily, as a nation we decided that the au naturel route was the one for us. Who wants to hoover their lawn or Mr Muscle their petunias? No thank you, we'll just continue to enjoy our garden in all its overgrown glory.

Of course, the technology has come in handy in the form of astroturf. As all of us who've been on the receiving end of an acute sports-related turf burn will know, that stuff is indestructible! If ever you feel the need to play hockey in a freezing-cold downpour or make your front lawn resemble a doormat, astroturf is the way forward.

5. The executive toy

Image of Newton's Cradle

Photo: Unloveable Steve

Life was forecasted as bleak at best for the modern-day, high-flying manager, so it was deemed necessary to provide toys to ‘eradicate boredom from the lives of lonely executives’ (their words not ours).

The most popular of executive toys, the Newton’s Cradle, was seen as the perfect way to distract bosses from hours spent presumably staring at walls, perhaps looking out of a window. Akin to a budgie, the executive could wile away the hours staring at shiny objects as their workers enjoyed a day of peace and quiet.

Maybe this hasn’t made the deepest impact on our lives, but it has kept many bosses happy throughout the years, for which we are thankful.

And finally...

6. Computerised banking

Image of men using chip and pin

Photo: DUP Photos

Imagine a world where, instead of carrying cash around everywhere, we can simply transfer funds from our accounts to a shop. Oh right, that happens now. Thanks, Tomorrow’s World.

After initially regarding it as some kind of witchcraft, we have grown accustomed to the chip-and-pin method of paying for things.

Casually typing in that four-digit code as we chatter nonchalantly with friends; spending our money without a care in the world. We laugh scornfully at our apparently antique cheque book cowering in the corner of an unused drawer, hoping that one day we might use it again.

Dream on cheque book, chip-and-pin is here to stay.

So with all these Tomorrow's World promises becoming a reality, it's little wonder that as a nation we presumed we'd be picking out the perfect shade for our hover car right about now.

It’s closer than you may think, though. There are prototypes making their way through rigorous testing stages as we speak (well type) that could be ready for the mass market within the next couple of years. Now don't get too excited, we aren't going to be whizzing around like the Jetsons. More like driving a car with fold-out wings that costs the same as a three-bedroom house... but it's a start.